Chronicles of Khaldun: Crux of Eternity
Escape from the Tomb of Theronna Onyxarm, Part 1
Earthday 20, 552 CY (50 AN)
(Session date: November 5, 2011)
The word goes out among some Morgrave University students that there is a party tonight; a few students prepare to sneak into one of the abandoned tenements in the goblin slums to drink and carouse.
Singly or in groups, they arrive: Alek Baul Dwin the male goblin, Ander Heinsoo the male halfling, Babycakes the male half-orc, Bree Leomund the female human, Davril Tarmikos the male human, John Smith the male human, Krisdove Soulaxe the female dwarf, Krisiries Loyalar the female human, Lorac Arien the male half-elf, Otiven Pegason the male human, Paul O’Trieadies the male human, Penelope the female elf, Quionna Loreweaver the female elf, Sally Proudfoot the female halfling, Shahorn Wyvernjack the male human, Tulip the female half-orc, Varis Battlestrike the male dwarf, Wandadove Huntinghawk the female half-elf, William the male human, and Zantiln Stoneheart the male dwarf. They come to drink and smoke and forget their troubles for a time. Paul and Babycakes bring a goat with them, and the others bring five live chickens among them, as well as ale and candles and flour and slaughtered chickens.
But Sorgforge is honeycombed with tunnels and tombs, and trouble is a thing that cannot always be avoided.
A tremor and a landslide casts the basement floor pitching into darkness. The group falls, landing in water. A hot springs, no doubt fed by the geothermal energies beneath Sorgforge. They are in a vaulted chamber, with the ceiling about fifty feet above their heads. A large, looming statue is carved out of the solid rock one end of the chamber. It depicts a dwarf plunging a sword into the hot springs. Rock rises out of the water at the other end of the chamber. That way lies a tunnel, which is flanked by two lit torches.
After assembling themselves, the group starts to move. They take the two torches — and since they give off no heat, the group surmises that these are everburning torches — and move to the next room.
The next room is a large, octagonal room. Frescoes and bas-reliefs on the wall suggest that this is a shrine to Theronna Onyxarm, slayer of giants and liberator of dwarvenkind. The center of the room features a dais with a large statue of a powerful-looking dwarf female. Based on the depictions upon the walls, this statue similarly displays Theronna Onyxarm. The statue holds a warhammer, though it is separate from the statue — the heavy design, runic markings, and jeweled motifs suggest it is magic, or at least worth a fair amount. Four hallways, including the one from which the group just arrived, lead from the room. Two of the students approach the statue. One reaches out his hand to grab the hammer.
The statue animates, smashing the head of a student. Most of the students scatter, though some throw bags of flour and jugs of ale at it, all to no avail. After another student is killed by the marauding statue, the last of the students flee. Three go through the exit across from where they entered the octagonal chamber, while the other fifteen flee through the exit to the left.
The exit to the left shows a room, similar to the first, with a high, vaulted ceiling. Like the first room, a large statue emerges from the wall, carved from the solid rock. It is a dwarf operating a bellows, and it is complemented by a fissure beneath it. A hot wind blows from this fissure, and the few who dare to look down into the chasm see that it appears to descend endlessly — torches do not show the bottom.
As for the other three, they pass quickly through a room with a large statue depicting a dwarf blacksmith with a hammer laboring over an anvil. Another tunnel passes through the far end, showing a possible exit. They pass through it, and finding stairs, they ascend them.
At the top of the stairs, there is a door straight ahead and a door to the right. The door straight ahead depicts a bas-relief of Theronna Onyxarm, holding her hammer aloft. The door to the right is a plain, stone door. The group decides to open the plain door on the right.
Seeing three suits of armor, one on each of the four walls of this oblong room, the group approaches cautiously. All suits of armor depict dwarves holding hammers. The group takes a slaughtered chicken they brought to cook at the party, and throws it into the room. The movement prompts no motion from the statues, so they walk into the room to investigate, allowing them to notice a fourth statue along the wall they could not see.
Meanwhile, the group of fifteen cautiously returns to the octagonal room to find the statue of Theronna Onyxarm back on its pedestal. They pass through that room, pass through the anvil room, and travel up the stairs. The group sees the three in the room with the statues, standing around a plucked chicken. Paul O’Trieadies places his hand on the latch to open the door with the bas-relief of Theronna Onyxarm.
The picture appears to move, casting its hammer over the crowd. Eight of them perceive things to shift, as horrific creatures surround them.
The hallway explodes into violence. The three in the room run for the exit on the far side, seeing a rusted and broken portcullis. However, before they can make it, the suits of armor animate — shining with glowing Davek runes — and lurch forward to attack them. The trio bolts and runs through the open portcullis into the darkened halls beyond.
Meanwhile, most of the students bolt back downstairs and take the untraveled path. Finding themselves in another dead-end room, this time with a large dwarf statue laboring over a carved stone forge, bubbling with lava. They return the way they came.
Those students who remain do battle on the stairs. Some of the berserk students are cowed into submission, but some attack their fellows. Many fall as their friends are forced to subdue them. One falls lastly as she runs into the room to confront the metal homunculi.
As the excitement dies down, the survivors regroup and prepare to dash across the room with the metal homunculi. They also note that one stands near a leather satchel. Quickly, they scramble. Some distract the animate armor — even throwing a chicken at it, which seems to suitably distract it — while the others dash for the doorway. One grabs the satchel. Most escape, and they even manage to smash one of the animated suits of armor on the way out. They leave the homunculi behind.
The trio that left stumbles along in the dark until they come to a faintly glowing greenish slime with an acrid smell. The first of the trio runs through it, sustaining minor acid burns. The second also runs, but falls into the slime and is reduced to bones in a matter of moments. The last leaps over the slime, and the two survivors grope blindly in the dark, staggering through all sorts of twisty passageways.
The larger group, armed with their torches, traverses the tangle of tunnels. They use a piece of chalk to mark where they have been. Taking a moment to look at the satchel, they find a great number of gold and silver coins, nine arrows, and a single ring. They, too, come across the pool of slime, still stinking of the burned corpse within it. They drop a silver coin in it, which is instantly dissolved. The ring, oddly, doesn’t even tarnish when it is introduced to the acid, suggesting it is magical. Finally, one of the students lights a torch and touches it to the slime, which goes up in a flash and gives off a bitter tang of burning and vinegar. The group continues on its way.
As they continue, they find a small room containing the two survivors who ran. These two rejoin the party. Having two more paths to choose, they choose the far one. They wander for several minutes, finding dead ends which force them to turn back, before coming to a door. They open it a crack, displaying a room with a door almost directly across it. A busted, mouldering bag of coins sits within, and several small holes pockmark the walls. The purpose of these holes becomes apparent when they throw a chicken into the room; kruthiks boil from the walls and swarm the creature, ripping it apart in seconds. The group closes the door and backtracks.
Coming to the third passageway they did not originally take, they follow the twisting passageways through an empty room — the chicken they throw into the room is unmolested — before coming to a choice of two doors and another passage. They pick the door directly ahead, opening into another room with bas-reliefs and four statues; this one also has two closed doors and a closed portcullis. The chicken they throw into the room is not attacked, though they suspect that the group will be attacked if they penetrate too deeply into the room. They decide to avoid this room for another choice, going to the second door. The room has another door almost directly across from the first, and a portcullis next to it. The test-chicken is unmolested. They enter the room, and once all of them enter, the door closes behind them. They find the other door to be locked, so they try to force open the portcullis. Among three of them, they successfully force it. They move through a short hallway and force open the door at the end. A door sits to their right and a portcullis lies across the way. Two switches are placed on the lefthand wall. With the chicken unharmed, the group enters and one of the characters flips both switches. The group hears grinding sounds, possibly of another portcullis opening somewhere in the tomb complex.
They pass through the unexplored door, finding an empty room. The test-chicken is unmolested. A door sits to the far right, while an open doorway (obviously once held fast by a portcullis) sits to the left. The open portcullis leads into the more recent room containing bas-reliefs and suits of armor. Not wanting to deal with this, they travel through twisting passageways until they find themselves at the portcullis leading to the switch room. They backtrack to the room with the suits of armor. There is the open door from earlier, along with two unexplored doors — one across from them and one on the same side of the room. They opt to loop around to the same side of the room.
They survive the quick run through the animate armor, though a chicken dies in the attempt, and they manage to run into the hallway and close the door behind them. However, in the twisting hallway, they meet with five, slimy, chitinous, tentacled monstrosities. A chicken dies and one of the creatures is struck in the head with a jug of ale, but the group escapes, dashing across the room and into the final unopened door. Strangely, the eldritch creatures in the hallway do not follow. They contemplate backtracking to see if they are still there, but finally decide to just press forward.
They are currently in an unremarkable room with an open archway, so they move forward into the hallway. They eventually come to a door, and crack it open to see a small horde of rotting dwarves, clad in chainmail and carrying bucklers, quietly standing guard in the room. A bag rests on the opposite side of the room, as does a door. The test-chicken dies horribly as the rotting undead fall upon it, so the others close the door and plot whether to turn back or press forward. After deciding against setting the goat on fire and sending it among the zombies, they decide that Wandadove Huntinghawk shall use her flask of Jepwine — a high-proof wine from Jepson — as an incindiary device. As they stuff the rag and prepare to light, a group of wispy shadows creep behind them.
In a panic, they open the door to see that the zombies have crowded it in anticipation. However, the burning flask of Jepwine makes short work of the zombies — three die immediately while two more are set ablaze, soon to expire. Three more are untouched.
The group starts to bolt. As they enter the room, they see another open archway — most go for the doorway while some go for the archway. The last chicken dies as a shade grasps it, turning the chicken itself into another shade. The two flaming zombies burn out while two of the last three die in the students’ panicked flight. Four students fall in the chaos — Bree dies as she charges the shadows, and Wandadove is trapped by the shadows as she positioned herself to throw the Molotov cocktail — but the rest manage to escape.
Krisiries returns to find a single shadow that looks suspiciously chicken-like and a single zombie. She manages to throw one of the arrows — since determined to be magic — at a shadow, killing it. She also manages to kill the zombie that falls upon her.
Announcing her success, the others waiting in the hall return to the room. They help themselves to the zombies’ chainmail, while they find the other satchel in the room contains coin and an ornate sword, bearing the markings of Kord. Krisiries takes it.
The others who fled through the open archway, finding only dead ends, return to the room. There is enough armor for eight of the remaining nine survivors; Alek Baul Dwin does without.
All told, nine remain: Alek Baul Dwin, Babycakes (and his goat, Duddits), Davril Tarmikos, Krisiries Loyalar, Lorac Arien, Otiven Pegason, Paul O’Trieadies, Quionna Loreweaver, and Sally Proudfoot.
(Readers who wish to hear a little more about this adventure — or see pictures! — are directed to this blog post.)